Friday, March 29, 2013

This more than qualifies as a cheesy penny

A man was recently caught with 21 tons of stolen cheese.

"There's a black market for everything," said Sissman. "We've seen everything stolen.  We've found stolen beer, stolen food, stolen machine parts, but this is the first time we've found stolen cheese.  When I looked inside and saw stolen cheese, I thought, of course it's from Wisconsin."

-- From the news story

It turns out that cheese is the most stolen food item on the planet.

A great post on this, with all kinds of links to other stories of stolen cheese, is over at

One good thing about a semi-empty* nest

You can have soup for dinner.

With green stuff in it and everything.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Easter Egg Sandwich

I'm an Easter egg underachiever.

Instead of decoupage, decals, natural hues from bark or moss or tea, pastel glitter dips, add-on beaks or wings or butterflies, hand-drawn stencils, google-y eyes, fuzzy feet, elaborate swirls, polka dots, tartan plaids, embossed golden curlicues, or anything in this slideshow, when we bother to decorate eggs, we go with Paas. The stinky, completely chemical stuff from the drug store that stains everything but the eggs, because the dorky loop egg holders never work.

It makes a big mess, the eggs stick to the carton because somebody put them back in there before they were dry, and then you have dozens of uneaten, mis-matched hard-boiled eggs in the fridge.  When you peel one to make your eighth egg salad sandwich of the week, inevitably there are tiny veins of residual color running through the egg, which are visually interesting but definitely tend to dampen the appetite.

Plus, they do not contain sour jelly beans, Skittles, or M&Ms.  The plastic eggs from the drugstore, on the other hand, do contain candy, and are already colored.  Guess which ones everybody likes better?

No contest*.

Why put your eggs through all that?

Fry (or scramble!) 'em up and put them in a sandwich instead.

Monday, March 25, 2013


The thing about kids is, they can't stay kids forever*.

They pull themselves up on the edge of that coffee table.
And the next thing you know, they've let go.

I've had issues with this whole concept for years.

For example, when my son crawled for the first time, all I could think was, "He's leaving me. Oh God! He's leaving me!**" The whole first day of school separation anxiety thing?  All me. The kids were like, "I got a new lunchbox. You can go now." And don't even get me started on my sleep-away camp problem.

But somehow, even with all of the voice deepening and curve sprouting, attitude copping and privacy seeking, social networking and responsibility-taking, these startlingly mature people have still been mostly defined, at least officially, as subsets of us.

All too soon (well, in a year and a half, but STILL!), my first born will be attending college***. As himself.  Not as an unaccompanied minor, or as the "Kids Stay Free" kid in the hotel room, but all on his own. Considering how melancholy I was this morning about him leaving for a mere six day college tour, when his freshman year actually comes in 2014,  I'll probably have to be institutionalized.

Fortunately, I now own an appropriately institutional emergency Bundt pan.

And it makes a most excellent stress-induced pound cake.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Try a little Toasted-ness

I may have mentioned something about Irish Soda Bread yesterday.

It's pretty good right out of the oven.  Tender and moist inside, with just the right hint of sweet and a nice whiff of whisky in every bit of fruit.  A fine, fine loaf, but not something I would commit to, exactly.'s f%&@ing great when it's toasted, with butter and jam.

Honestly, if I'd known about the toast thing, I would probably have sung about it yesterday.


You got-ta, you got-ta, you got-ta...try a little...TOASTED-NESS! 
Ooh ooh ooh! Yeah!!* 

Monday, March 18, 2013

Fish & Chips & Chips

There was definitely a randy Irish slave owner somewhere in my family tree*, and my husband's pale-faced lineage has many an O'Brien in the not so distant past.   My kids have a disturbing overabundance of the Gift of the Blarney**, and my son did leave his recent SAT test with just one reward in mind:  A large Shamrock Shake.

The three of us that were old enough to see it thought The Guard was pure genius.

In other words, we may not have greeted the day with green bagels and beer, but there was no reason for everyone to be such a hater when I brought up the idea of making a traditional Irish dinner yesterday.

My husband:  What?  Like corned beef?  No.  No way. I draw the line at corned beef.
Me;  You draw the line at corned beef?  Since when?
My husband:  Everyone should draw the line at corned beef.  It's a given.

My son:  Hold on. What would be for dinner?
Me:  I was thinking about a nice Guiness Beef Stew.  I saw few recipes online the other day and...
My son:  Well that's just a terrible idea.  I hate stew, and you know it. Let's just go out for fish and chips.  Man, I could totally go for some fish and chips right now. That sounds amazing. And super Irish.  If you want, we could even go to a pub with Irish people in it, and get fish and chips there.  Problem solved.

In the end, I compromised***.  No corned beef. No stew.
And chips on top of the fish.
Because it's super Irish to go heavy on the potatoes.
Problem solved.

Monday, March 11, 2013

A Formidable Woman

My grandmother was a very formidable woman.

My grandmother, in the Virgin Islands, with four of her six children. My mom is on the left, with the braids.

First of all, she was huge. Unlike my Dad's mom, who was wispy and petite and barely reached up to her son's chest, my mother's mother literally loomed over us.  Her ample bosom was supported by long, strong, sturdy arms and legs.  She was thick around the middle, and her face was broad and large, with a pronounced nose and thick, cats-eye glasses.  Although to adults she may have just been tall and statuesque, she such had a commanding physical presence that I, as a child, naturally believed she was a giant.  My recollections of her are full of neck-craning and futile attempts to wrap my arms all the way around her waist when we visited her and my grandfather in their crazy purple house.

She was opinionated, combative and authoritative.  Her voice carried up and down stairs, through doors and walls, berating her children, calling us "heathen Chinese" because my mom wasn't taking us to church, and holding forth in general about how everyone was going about their lives. She communicated mostly by hollering and dramatic sighs of "oy, yoy".  After decades in San Francisco, her lilting West Indian accent was thick and constant and a fundamental part of the air we breathed around her.

She carried herself like a queen.  Outfits festooned with flowers. Brightly colored pantsuits. Always a purse, clasped just so. Standing ramrod straight, unruffled and in charge regardless of the circumstances. I have one particularly vivid memory of a trip to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. My regal, perfectly coiffed, massive grandmother stepped onto the wooden roller coaster car, and rode the entire ride with me in composed silence, as I clung, terrified, to the bar in front, screaming my head off. It was one of the strangest and most thrilling moments of my life.

Me and my grandmother

She taught me to make a quilt, to crochet, to hold my own in an argument, and above all, to be on my toes at all times.

She also made bright pink candy out of coconuts.
How fantastic is that?

Monday, March 4, 2013

Carpool Wars - Battle: Braise!

When I took my pro chef class, I learned the following:

Braising is a cooking technique, seen often in French cuisine, combining moist and dry heat. It uses heat, time, and moisture to break down the tough connective tissue, collagen, in meat, making it an ideal way to cook tougher cuts. Most often the meat is quickly dry seared in a hot pan, then transferred to a pot with liquids to cook, long and slowly, until the meat is utterly and completely delicious.

Carpool Wars - Battle: Braise! 
A long-simmering summary.

It turns out that I have been braising this post*.

Back in December 2012 (!), the carpool moms had another knock-down, all-out, no-holds-barred, gourmet dinner throw-down.  We raised the stakes by adding a new category, Best Wine Pairing.  We required complementary side dishes.

We braised our butts off.

That memorable evening, meat was falling off of bones all over the place.  Rich, long-simmered sauces were ladled over risotto and silky smooth potatoes and creamy, cheesy polenta.  In the midst of all the heartiness, a gorgeous green salad appeared**.

Then much incredible wine was consumed, and I kind of lost track of the details.  But there was definitely a warm apple tart with cinnamon ice cream in there somewhere.

The contenders:

 Christy F's Asian Style Beef Short Ribs, with Melted Leeks and Creamy Mashed Potatoes.  Ginger, garlic, soy and scallions in the sauce, perfectly tender beef, and the barely caramelized leeks went perfectly with the luxurious spuds.  Wow.
Recipe here.

The short ribs were paired with a gorgeous vintage wine from the host's collection

 My Braised Lamb Shanks with Gremolata and Baked Polenta.  The lamb cooked for hours in tomatoes, onions, stock and wine, with a little fennel and rosemary.  Very tasty.  And the creamy polenta with a slightly toasted top crust was killer.  This was the cover recipe from the October issue of Bon Appetit, so this is actually a double theme post:  Carpool Wars and Cook My Mailbox!
Recipe here.

The lamb was paired with a Biale Petite Syrah, Royal Punishers, one of my all-time favorite wines***.  My friend had just given me this bottle, and I couldn't think of a better reason to crack it open.

Christy D.'s Veal Osso Buco with Saffron Risotto.  Can you say decadent?  I thought you could.  Her sauce was deeply flavored, with cloves, bay leaves, sage and thyme.  I loved this one.
Recipe here.

A Shiraz married with the veal.  They were quite well matched, if I do say so myself.

The judges ate, and drank, and considered.

In the end, our hostess' Short Ribs (justifiably) ruled!  My wine pairing received accolades, and Christy D's presentation once again impressed****.   As much as everyone loved Battle: Brunch and Battle: Taco, the consensus was that we'd outdone ourselves yet again.

But that might have been the wine talking.
And the apple tart.